I feel like a bit of autobiography might be necessary, just in case someone accidentally stumbles upon this and likes it. This is my soapbox on where writingled me, as well as an unwelcome rant on the state of journalism. Consider this a ”You are here” sticker on a mall map that was made 6 years ago.
Let’s start this off with my credentials thus far: None. I have a rooted familiarity and a fanboys perspective of storytelling and Gonzo journalism (look it up). I mostly try to keep a finger on the pulse of traditional storytelling’s extinction, when I can spare one. A classically trained journalist by education and love, I do not have enough command of any one discipline to leverage any outstanding storytelling qualities or cleverness. I am here for the self-paced classes on being a Sherpa after killing off the first 4 expeditions, and I am late on day 1.
Luckily, anyone with an internet connection and an axe to grind can in about 10 minutes reach an audience larger than any proud circulation I worked on. I have always held an appreciation for writers that could blur the line between reporting and fiction; never in my life have I read an interesting article that I can say was the complete story, and this never upset me. I have no problem using my own reasoning and judgement to discern the takeaways from an event, and at least in my head I find that my opinion holds enough water to at least garner a twitching ear of approval from my audience.
Today’s ingestion of events and culture rarely even finds its way to 140 characters, or whatever the fuck the Twitter limit is these days. It is surprising that it wasn’t cut to 60. Sharp photos, ten second videos, constantly doubling definition and fidelity are the modern tools of storytelling have successfully enslaved our generation. I wake up every Sunday morning embarrassed by my iCloud screen time report, but I know that I am lucky it only reports for times that I am engaged.
I had just started college in 2005 when making money writing on the internet and social media got some traction. This was long after the death of anyone under 50 getting a copy of the daily delivered. By my sophomore year I felt like I was practicing a craft slipping in a new direction, and new journalists at the time were caught in the middle of two worlds. Traditional reporting was heading out the window, and no one knew how to cope. New journalists worried before the digital revolution how to make their nut, this coming before an exponential shift on an already disparaging pay scale.
Along with this shift in the way we digest storytelling and journalism came a modern cultural Romanticism. Congratulations to us. Twerking Instagram feeds, photos of food getting 100k likes, and events that somehow deliver on the dream of Fyre Fest (R.I.P) are just as important to opinions of the perceived world than any news article written in the last 15 years.
We are okay with our moral and ethical compasses losing the ability to mitigate the flow of obvious subjectivity before any introspection can be processed. We catalog a plethora of wildly different opinions to the same newsworthy story, but there is very little care given to scrutinizing the legitimacy of the sources. We use gut instinct in matters that used to be at least a half-cocked attempts to impress readers with truth.
Luckily, matters of culture have always lived on the fringe of fiction and non-fiction, and creative license has always been loosely applied. Writing about culture demands colorful language and prose, often times needing to leave the usual writing style and ethics to be true. However, culture writing always tries to be true, because it is a description of an idea or object that doesn’t ask to be written about, rather experienced.
This fact has led to my love of writing about culture, and why I feel like it is my one last foray into loving journalism and writing. I hope that this article is held up as a rubric against anything that comes from me hereafter.